eCommerce Intelligence: Conversion Comes From Product-Detail Content

April 23, 2015
Mark White
Written By
Mark White

For years, product-page content has been grudgingly regarded as necessary for companies selling online. However, with the continuing shift towards omnichannel, Mark White of content26 discusses why brands need to provide consumers with compelling, informative, and user-benefit rich product content in order to optimize their online presence and drive conversion.

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It’s a given that a company needs to spend five, six or seven figures on product-launch advertisement and marketing campaigns, but getting them to invest $450 in a product-detail content remains a challenge.

Call me biased–content26, the company I helped found, has been producing product-detail content for brands since 2004–but a well-executed product page offers some of the best ROI a merchandiser or marketer can make. For a fraction of a local ad spend or SEM campaign, product-detail content can act as a 24/7 sales rep that is available across multiple devices to thousands of potential buyers.

And when a sales or marketing campaign successfully drives consumers to the product-detail content, the chances of conversion are increased significantly when that page is optimized with good content.

As examples, consider three before/after studies on the ROI of product content that we’ve provided to our clients and retail partners over the years. While there is always “noise” in these studies, the results are unambiguous:

  • A major electronics retailer experienced a 38% “add to cart” increase across 128 products
  • A major CPG client saw a 7% sales lift across several product lines; the rate increased to 12% when key words in the content were optimized
  • One of the world’s largest retailers experienced at 9% sales increase across legacy products that were in inventory for over 18 months

While awareness of the importance of product content is clearly on the rise–Profitero’s value proposition is but one of many indications–our sales team continues to spend most of their time educating potential clients on the basic values of our service. Most companies still don’t get it.

And when they do get it, many still insist on populating product-detail content with billboard-type content, rather than with the information-rich, consumer-value content that conversion requires.

There are four primary reasons to which I attribute these problems:

  1. Lack of C-level buy-in: In CPG and consumer electronics, executive support is rapidly increasing. But for most verticals, because online sales as a proportion of their overall sales is still in the single digits, the old-school paradigm of “show me the money” still rules.
  2. No defined digital marketing infrastructure: Most companies do not have a well-defined digital marketing team that owns this process. So companies employ a patchwork-quilt approach to funding and managing retail content, with no comprehensive strategic vision or single point of contact to make decisions.
  3. Immature Tools to Measure ROI: Until recently, there were no dedicated tools that could measure the impact of the many attributes of product-detail pages (including information design and other visual aspects beyond the scope of written content). A before/after test with noise and anecdotal evidence do not cut the mustard with most procurement departments or CFOs, and make the sales process a significant challenge.
  4. Traditional outbound marketing paradigm: Content is still viewed by many companies through the lens of an unforgettable jingle or Super Bowl commercial: “How many water cooler discussions can we generate with our media buy?” Building effective product-detail content requires a paradigm shift of what the content is designed to accomplish, how it is produced, and how its success is measured.

As for points 1 and 2, getting the C-suite to support product-detail content as a strategic initiative and convincing billion-dollar enterprises to develop dedicated content teams feels a bit like sending an email to the President asking for world peace.

But educating companies on best content practices, continuing the development of tools to measure content effectiveness, and using that data to redefine “best practices” are well within our scopes.

The jobs of traditional marketers are to raise brand awareness and drive eyeballs to the product-detail content. The job of content providers like content26 is to help them seal the deal by providing compelling, informative, and user-benefit rich content so the consumer can make an informed buying decision. And the job of a company like Profitero is, among other things, to track that activity so we can continually improve the content we create and provide our clients with the data that proves the ROI.

We are all still very early in this eCommerce thing. But the shift online is well underway. Companies that do not invest in product content strategies across their online channels and use the data that is now emerging to optimize content for best practices will soon find themselves further and further removed from the pack.

Mark White has over 15 years of experience in online content development and management. As a founding partner of content26, he has been responsible for the company’s strategic partnerships and overseen the development of services and processes since the company’s inception. 

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